Obesity means having so much body fat that your health is in danger. Having too much body fat can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, sleep apnea, and stroke.
Even if you don't feel bad now, think about these health risks. Do they seem like a good reason to start on a new path toward a healthier weight? Or do you have another personal, powerful reason for wanting to lose weight? Whatever it is, keep it in mind. It can be hard to change eating habits and exercise habits. But with your own reason and plan, you can do it.
To know if your weight is in the obesity range, your doctor looks at your body mass index (BMI) and waist size.
Your BMI is a number that is calculated from your weight and your height. To figure your BMI for yourself, get a BMI table from your doctor or use an online tool, such as www.dietitians.ca/your-health/assess-yourself/assess-your-bmi/bmi-adult.aspx on the Dietitians of Canada website.
A healthy BMI is from 18.5 to 24.9. If your BMI is from 30.0 to 39.9, you are considered to have obesity. If your BMI is over 40.0, you are considered to have extreme obesity.
When you take in more calories than you burn off, you gain weight. How you eat, how active you are, and other things affect how your body uses calories and whether you gain weight.
If you have family members who have too much body fat, you may have inherited a tendency to gain weight. And your family also helps form your eating and lifestyle habits, which can lead to obesity.
Also, our busy lives make it harder to plan and cook healthy meals. For many of us, it's easier to reach for prepared foods, go out to eat, or go to the drive-through. But these foods are often high in saturated fat and calories. Portions are often too large.
Focus on health, not diets. Diets are hard to stay on and don't work in the long run. It is very hard to stay with a diet that includes lots of big changes in your eating habits.
Instead of a diet, focus on lifestyle changes that will improve your health and achieve the right balance of energy and calories. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. You can do it by eating healthy foods in reasonable amounts and becoming more active, even a little bit every day. Making small changes over time can add up to a lot.
Make a plan for change. Many people have found that naming their reasons for change and staying focused on their plan can make a big difference. Work with your doctor to create a plan that is right for you.
Talk with your doctor about other weight-loss options. If you have a BMI in a certain range and have not been able to lose weight with diet and exercise, medicine or surgery may be an option for you. Before your doctor will prescribe medicines or surgery, he or she will probably want you to be more active and follow your healthy eating plan for a period of time. These habits are key lifelong changes for managing your weight, with or without other medical treatment. And these changes can help you avoid weight-related health problems.
Be ready. Choose to start during a time when there are few events that might trigger slip-ups, like holidays, social events, and high-stress periods.
Decide on your first few steps. Most people have more success when they make small changes, one step at a time. For example, you might switch a daily candy bar to a piece of fruit, walk 10 minutes more, or add more vegetables to a meal.
Line up your support people. Make sure you're not going to be alone as you make this change. Connect with people who understand how important it is to you. Ask family members and friends for help in keeping with your plan. And think about who could make it harder for you, and how to handle them.
Try tracking. People who keep track of what they eat, feel, and do are better at losing weight. Try writing down things like:
Look and plan. As you track, look for patterns that you may want to change. Take note of:
When you stray from your plan, don't get upset. Figure out what made you slip up and how you can fix it.
If you have a BMI in a certain range and have not been able to lose weight with diet and exercise, medicine or surgery may be an option for you.
If you have a BMI of at least 30.0 (or a BMI of at least 27.0 and another health problem related to your weight), ask your doctor about weight-loss medicines. They work by making you feel less hungry, making you feel full more quickly, or changing how you digest fat. Medicines are used along with diet changes and more physical activity to help you make lasting changes.
If you have a BMI of 40.0 or more (or a BMI of 35.0 or more and another health problem related to your weight), your doctor may talk with you about surgery. Weight-loss surgery has risks, and you will need to work with your doctor to compare the risk of having obesity with the risks of surgery.
With any option you choose, you will still need to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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Current as of: June 26, 2018
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
& Thomas M. Bailey, MD, CCFP - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
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